Friday, July 27, 2012

Reading Smokey Stover: Unpacking the Storage Locker


Smokey Stover Fireday


A New Smokey Stover or Bill Holman comic every Friday - visit us often!

Here's another beautiful Bill Holman 1941 full page with a Smokey on top and a Spooky on bottom. Scanned minutes ago from my own archives. Great cartooning and loads of gags! 

Most sequential comics acrete, accumulate, and build meaning from one panel to the next, until finally you have a coherent structure built in your mind. Reading one of Bill Holman's densely compressed Smokey Stover comics is the inversion of the typical sequential comics experience -- as you read, you unpack and pull apart. It's like dismantling a storage locker bought at auction -- you never know what you'll find inside, but it will be a vast array of objects, some junk and some treasure.

The "real life" equivalent of a Smokey Stover comic before you read it

By the time you've finished reading just one Smokey Stover strip, you've had to unpack each box (panel) and sift and sort -- the floor is littered with visual and verbal puns, gags, surreal plays, goofy inventions, weird characters, cartoon animals, and cornball jokes. 

Reading Smokey requires an investment of energy and presence beyond the typical 1940s newspaper comics reading experience-- and often, when I am done unpacking the storage locker that is a Smokey Stover comic, I'm a little tuckered out. But then -- all these funny gags and weird little drawings are now unpacked, and my mind can play with them all day. 


Bill Holman's Smokey comics are very similar to Outcault's Yellow Kid comics -- a big tableaux to pick apart. Spooky, on the other hand, generally follows the more traditional structure.

Smokey Stover is the ultimate de-construction comic -- in order to read the strip, you have to pull it apart.

A packed storage locker of screwballism - a full page Bill Holman comic from August 17, 1941
(from the collection of Paul Tumey)


Getting Off the Party Lion, 
Paul Foomey

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